Out to Taal Lake! (Club Balai Isabel)

It was our first night to sleep in our apartment after having bought the sofa bed last Tuesday. As we had to be at the meeting place by 6:30 AM, we woke up at quarter to six because we still had to fix the clothes we had to bring. I had no difficulty sleeping in our new apartment, and I normally have a hard time sleeping in an unfamiliar place. I consider that as a good sign, then.

A lot of people who registered and agreed to attend bailed out at the last minute and I was really happy to hear that. It means less people to deal with (i.e. the unbearable noise), and I was looking forward to a relaxing day. Plus, as there were about 50 absentees, it meant that we had more chances of winning cool prizes from the raffle. Again, I do not have the biggest luck in games of luck, but as there were 100 plus prizes for less than a hundred participants, I highly doubt I wouldn’t be picked even once!

Entrance-slash-gate of Club Balai IsabelAfter an uneventful hour and a half ride (though it was fun because I was with my friends/officemates with me, having a laugh over the silliest things), we finally arrived in Club Balai Isabel, a resort located at the edge of Taal Lake in Talisay Batangas. The last time I was near the waters was in 2004 (February 15, 2004, to be exact) during a field trip for our Geology 1 class. And as far as I can remember, it was my first ever banca ride and it was a really scary experience, seeing the kelp (or whatever you call them) swaying in the dark waters below. Rumor has it that thatShake, Rattle and Roll” film, with the infamous undin, was shot in Taal Lake. I took that fact to heart, so even if I am a capable swimmer, I was (or am) still scared of the lake.

The famous 'façade' of Taal Volcano - Binintiang Malaki

A floating house in Taal Lake

That was the time I became aware that the famous view of Taal Volcano was not the real crater. “Binintian Malaki” and its dormant crater is the face of Taal, but the real crater was located somewhere else in the near middle of the Crater Island. I actually got to go inside the real crater and we were even allowed to bathe inside. Of course, I did not but I remember a courageous lady from another section, who willingly took the plunge in her cut-out swimsuit (to the delight of the boys in the group). It was nevertheless nice to be back in a familiar place after almost a decade.

Nice native details on the ceiling

With my officemates!

Very nice shot of Mon and I by Faye

On a different note, it has been quite a while since Mon and I joined a team outing. The last time was unfortunate because Mon has acquired amoebiasis from Clearwater in Clark, Pampanga and we vowed to never join any of the future outings. But as we were in desperate need of kitchen and household appliances for our new apartment, we were eager to join so that we no longer have to buy some of them. LOL Again, given that there were far fewer people who attended, the succeeding events were a breeze, with only two games to boot. A far cry from the HOURS of games conducted before. Sporadic raffles in between eventually brought us three things: an oven toaster, a rice cooker and a digital camera! It was my first time to win a raffle!

And we won a rice cooker, an oven toaster and a digital camera

Club Balai Isabel was a nice place, but we had high hopes with the food because when we were still in Makati earleir, Mon and I spoked with a random guy in the elevator, commending thir food and service. So imagine that come lunch time, the roast beef was like rubber, the pork still had a lot of hair on the skin, and the soup was a macaroni short of being a macaroni soup. It was really unappetizing and it did not help that when we were about to be served snacks at around 3:00 PM, we saw that the delivery truck had accidentally dropped the trays of sandwiches on the lawn. I did not bother eating a sandwich, because it was a station away from being a soil-wich (corny, LOL).

However, make no mistake because the environment itself was beautiful. There were a lot of fruit-bearing trees, but the signboards were very explicit in warning us with bold “NO PICKING OF FRUITS”. What do they dowith them? We had no idea because the ground was littered with overripe fruits. What a pity. =(

The biggest pool in Club Balai Isabel

Somebody's irritated =D

Yes, I had to sit on the grass

As we were given a lot of free time to roam around the area, we had to visit the lakeside and see the bigger pool. There were few people swimming but I assume it would have been full if only the other company were done with their teambuilding activities. It was difficult to get a closer shot of the ‘volcano’ because my camera was not skilled enough, all of us had a great time taking pictures, particularly jump shots under the sun.

Slayin' them all with my cheerleader jump!

 

I still have it, I guess LOL

 

We also had a dip in the smaller but nearest pool to us, and I think we were inside for more than an hour. An officemate unfortunately had a mishap as she stopped swimming in the middle of the pool, not knowing that it was the deeper part. It was scary and funny at the same time because Mon and I had to rush and help her get out of the water. I knew that she would drag me in the matter, had I tried swimming to get her, so I just went below her and walked her to the gutter.

 

Synchronized swimming LOL

 

Before leaving, somebody made us fill papers for a raffle, and it was for a free stay in their place for some days and nights. As it was a raflle, I definitely have a small chance. It was a free trip so I should not be complaining, but the food was really a letdown. I even heard that they are charging about a thousand pesos for a sinigang dish in the executive restaurant, yikes! We also highly doubt that they have prepared food enough for about a hundred people. If none were absent and backed out at the last minute, alas, we needed a miracle to have enough food for all os us. =D

Going home from Club Balai Isabel

*(Some photos were grabbed from Faye and Dale) =D

 

A day before graduation

It’s my third consecutive day of waking up around 8:00 AM because of important tasks that needed to be done. We went back to UPLB the other day for Lot’s enrollment, and I had my 10:00 AM appointment with the NGO yesterday because I finally signed the contract for the new position I will assume starting June 3. For today, I had to pick up the tickets for both the college and university graduation happening this weekend, and that meant dropping by AS before lunchtime.

Tickets for both the college and university graduation

When I first called AS 101 for information about the recognition rites, I had a hard time understanding the person who was in charge of information to answer those who are inquiring. Let’s just say that I finally met him in person, and he was not as pleasant as he sounded on the phone. In my first encounter with him in that telephone call, we had a small misunderstanding over the nomenclature of AS and Palma Hall. I kept on saying AS and he kept on correcting me with Palma Hall, so imagine the irony when you see a giant “AS 101” plastered by the College Secretary’s entrance — his office. Anyway, I have never been inside AS 101 during my whole stay in graduate school because I dealt with my academic matters in the Office of the Graduate Program. So when I asked about the tickets for both ceremonies, I knew right away that I was dealing with the same person because he was honestly snarky and it did not help that he was incomprehensible (i.e. he eats his words). I normally got no problem with that, but it’s just plain wrong to put people who are not eloquent in answering questions, without a hint of condescension, in the front desk or whatever. Somebody needs a crash course in communicating effectively.

The Academic Oval - UP Diliman

Anyway, I got my tickets in no time from the extremely busy BUT gracious person who was in charge of giving out the tickets. I was so happy to leave the same room with that staff with the bad attitude. Mind you, he changed his tune when he found out in that telephone call that I was a graduate student and not an undegrad. Maybe I should feel good that he was cranky with me because I looked like an undergrad. So after AS, I realized that I still have a lot of time to go to the University Registrar and FINALLY claim my clearance. It was due for collection since January, but I did not know why it took me so long to claim it. It was a clear and sunny day, and even if the sun was way up high, I finally decided on walking to Quezon Hall and take a couple of pictures of the Sablay-clad Oble and the sunflowers in full bloom along University Avenue.

I have NEVER read the inscription by the foot of the Oblation ... wow, a decade after, really

Cheery sunflowers along University Avenue - UP Diliman, Graduation 2013

Interestingly, since entering UP Diliman exactly a decade ago, I have never once taken a picture of me with the sunflowers, or even stood near them within 10 feet! What have I been doing all those nine summers, I do not know, and I even did not bother going approaching them in my university graduation in 2007. Well, the sun was no joke and I was debating whether I should really take pictures given I was all by myself. I eventually crossed the road going to the sidewalk of University Avenue, walked the length going to the checkpoint, while sneakily looked for the perfect spot where the exiting vehicles would not see me. LOL It was strategically placed between two large bushes and the flowers in the area were not bad either.

FAIL - the camera was on zoom

I had tried two batches of “self-portrait”. The first one was hilarious that I won’t bother posting the best shot because there was none, while the other yielded accepted results, only that I forgot to zoom it out after the macro shots before it. Hello sweat and pores! I was a tourist in my own university, and it gave me a good laugh as I internally ridiculed how pathetic I was. I then waited for the jeepney going to MRT in the checkpoint, and the students who were inside were quizzically looking at me because I was drenched with sweat. They saw me walking the length of the sidewalk and I’ll bet my graduate degree that they might have suspected that I had a field day with the sunflowers. LOL

Arriving an hour after in Glorietta, I had to wait for Mon to arrive so that he can accompany me in looking for a barong tagalog to use for two days. The last barong I bought was from 2007 and I remember buying it around Php 1000 and it was not the best one out there. So I swore to myself that the next barong for my graduation will be far from the other one. A six-year interval, then, might be a long time because my jaw dropped upon seeing the prices of the barong tagalog for sale in Landmark Makati. The cheapest was at Php 3,000, while I almost fainted when I saw the Php 18,000 one. But anyway, the fabrics used in the production of these are produced locally, and the embroidery was so painstakingly done, that you won’t even notice the difference the difference in beauty between the low-end to high-end.

Good thing I did not choose the one to the left

Of course, I chose one of the cheaper ones! =D It was made from jusi as piña-made ones commanded a higher price. I had my eyes on one with the elaborately-detailed collar, but unfortunately, the smallest size available for that style (i.e. medium) did not fit me properly. I’m happy to hear, though, that I need a small-sized barong tagalog. =D However, it meant that my choices were few and good luck tomorrow as I expect a minimum of two to three people wearing the same barong tagalog as mine! I’m just praying that they should be seated at least a row away from me!

Trying on a couple of barong tagalog for the graduation

Tomorrow, our college graduation will be at 8:00 AM but we should be there by 7:00 AM for the assembly. It was really early but I would not be surprised if another college/institute booked the University Theater ahead of us, thus ending up with the earliest schedule. My female classmates were really worried because salons and beauty parlors do not normally open that early in the morning. I laughed at first, then realized that I also needed a haircut. What goes around, comes around, and the strict schedule of the last three days prevented me from having one. Well, at least I’m finally graduating! =D

“Palpak / Sablay “

“Palpak”

Yesterday, I went to UCPB branch near our office to report a lost ATM card. The funny part — I have a good feeling that I might have lost it since Tuesday last week but only took the time almost a week after to have it blocked! I did not know what gotten to me to forget such an important thing but I remember thinking that it might be in the office or in one of my bags at home. However, I did not actively look for it until Sunday night. LOL Maybe because it was no credit card and it needed a PIN to be accessed; but once I’ve read about modus operandi concerning stolen credit cards, I got paranoid.

I arrived past 3:00 PM, past their normal banking hours so I was stopped by the guard. Good thing I placed a phone call before coming to the office and the guard had to ask somebody inside, whom I was able to tell my situation and allowed me to come inside. I was made the fill up several forms and one of the fields require the “card number”. Who memorizes their ATM card number? I have several cards with me and I don’t even know any of them by heart. Turned out, I was not required to supply this information , though I was a bit embarassed because I did not know the name of the branch I have opened my account. Anyway, there were no other untoward incidents and  I was fortunate that my money was still in my account. They will automatically charge Php 150 for the card replacement (quite expensive, compared to BPI’s Php 100) and I will pick it up next Tuesday in Ortigas.

“Sablay”

Airing out my 'Sablay' for this weekend's use

Hello again old friend. It has been exactly six years!

And the most important thing this week — the recognition rites! We normally have two ceremonies at the end of the school year: one for the college graduation, and the other for the university-wide graduation. College graduations are normally more serious, while the university graduation is more festive. I remember incessantly fanning myself with the invitation during the latter one because it normally begins past 3:00 PM when the summer sun is blazing in front of us (it takes place in the Amphitheater, behind Oblé facing west…so the sun was all on us until setting).

For the coming weekend, I will  be finally attending the ceremonies to culminate my finishing of my graduate degree. I still haven’t bought a barong tagalog and I will most likely buy one this Friday. I did not particularly like the one I’ve used six years ago, so I am decided to buy a better one to make up for that lack. =D As for the Sablay, the official and distinct academic costume of the university, I have already taken it out of my closet, where it was kept all these years, with the mentality of using it again. So here I am, about to use it again, and I can’t be more happy to attend my graduation with a parent FINALLY with me. Too bad Papa won’t be able to come and attend my graduation again because of scheduling conflict. I just informed Mama that it wasn’t so bad since she’s here, and I jokingly added that I’ll just take another graduate degree so he can attend next time. LOL

I’ve been making mental notes of the things I wanted to do on Sunday, like having my pictures taken with the sunflowers along the University Avenue (because I did not have one in my graduation before) or do the same foolish stunt, climbing the base of Oblé with a left leg extension. But alas! The mind is willing but the body is unyielding. All in all, I just hope we’ll have a good sunny and cloudless (or maybe even windy) day on Sunday because I do not want to ruin my leather shoes with the rain. If I remember correctly, there was one university graduation after mine, when the weather did not cooperate at all. If that were to happen on Sunday, I would just ditch the event. Just kidding.

Seriously, finishing my undergraduate degree in 2007, I only have getting a good employment in mind, without any regard to anything at all. Yes, a UP student/graduate is expected to give back to the people who, in essence, paid for our education. Working for more than five years in a private company, I always thought that I have already paid my share back with the *insert expletives here* tax deducted from my salary. But getting my master’s degree and having a better understanding and vision of what is really out there, I now know that giving back can’t be equated to mere tax cuts. I still have yet to inform the rest of my family about my decision for a career change (sauf my sister, to whom I have shared everything last Thursday), but I guess the high spirits of the graduation rites might mitigate the shock of my announcement. =D

Chapter 28! Joyeux anniversaire à moi!

And today marks Chapter 28! Older and hopefully wiser! When I was younger (i.e. teenager), I was never really that big with birthdays. It was just another day to get old and add another number to my age. But funnily, when I had a marathon of Charmed episodes again in my early twenties, that episode where John Cho had a guest appearance made me realize how important birthdays should  be treated. It should be considered special, regardless how it would be celebrated because it marks LIFE, simple as that. And that forever changed the way I view birthdays.

Me on my first birthday, 27 years ago

I got really sweet presents as well! The first one was from Faye, who celebrates her birthday a day after me. She got me a Paris-themed weekly scheduler and its smell instantly reminded me of the  books I used to borrow from the library when I was still in grade school (took me a while to put my finger on it!). I also got to blow a candle on a mini-chocolate cake from Mon. =D I know for a fact that he has already foregone the idea of giving me a full-sized one because I don’t really like carrying boxes around with me, especially commuting home. And in a not-so-surprising-move, I even put this small cake inside my bag. Luckily it wasn’t smashed when I got home.

The sweetest ever!

Then entering our house, I was surprised to see my sister and nephew still awake. My sister gave me this beyond-cute cake, with my age and name on it, while JB handed me two personalized cards from him and Brie. He does that every year and I was ready to bet anything that there will be something astronomy-related in his drawing:

Look at this drawing by my nephew, the two of us bonding over observing the night sky

I had my glasses on, the telescope has the brand written over it, and even that circular tray to hold the different eyepieces was included. It was really thoughtful of him and that is the exact reason why I can’t always say no to this boy. He definitely has his ways, even at an early age. LOL

Last Wednesday, I went to that interview I was talking about in the previous post. I was told it would last from 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM, which was a peculiar duration for such an activity. But when I had been informed later on that six people would be interviewing me, I stopped wondering (anyway, the last interview got finished almost at 7:00 PM, for a total of 6 hours). I arrived five minutes before 1:00 PM to their office in Pasay, because I got lost for a couple of minutes. I have realistic expectations coming in to their premises, compensation-wise or the workplace itself. I am looking for at least a volunteer position in a humanitarian organization after all.

My interview immediately started and I barely had enough time to compose myself for the first one. Each of the interview, from the person I would be potentially replacing, to the kind French staff (who conducted the interview in French with a moment’s warning), to the distinguished lady who has once worked as USec for DSWD, to the executive assistant, to the deputy executive director and finally the founder of the organization, all of them gave me good insight of what to expect. I jokingly compared the whole experience as the Pokemon League. Jokes aside, it was a very humbling and exciting experience to learn what the responsibility entails, to know the effect of the work will be to people who are affected by conflict and disasters, and to be given the opportunity to work in their organization. It came to the point where I got emotional (i.e. I cried, yes! Imagine? I CRIED) because I was so overcome with a lot of thoughts and emotions, as well as concerns and what-ifs.

Bottom line: I knew that I want to work in this sector in a long-term basis. It is something I have consistently ignored but finally confronting that “existential crisis” I was having has liberated me. Again, there are concerns, both financially and also the questioning of my capability (what if I won’t be able to deliver what was expected of me) but I’ll have faith that there must be something that I have to contribute to what they do. I came in with, again, a volunteer position in mind, but I was offered to work on something that has more responsibilities to work on — even more than the non-volunteer post that I have initially indicated. I am still humbled and it furthermore ignited that desire to move on to new challenges. I think at this point, a lot of people I know will be really baffled over the  idea of “Bry, the social worker”, or “Bry from the NGO”, because I don’t really give off that vibe that I’m interested in the field. But I know deep in my heart, that amidst the hedonism and materialistic ways, I am capable of doing something with the skills I have acquired throughout the years.

Of course, it will be a phase full of uncertainty. Moving on from the doldrums of my everyday life and embarking on new and productive challenges, it will be difficult. I know that I personally won’t be able to totally let go of my love for, at least, dressing nicely or something similar to that, but I will definitely make sure that it will be in good taste and inoffensive (I don’t really need to specify why, I think). I still have  until Monday to make a final decision and if money were not an issue, I would have said yes last Wednesday. But I’m a realistic person, aware of my responsibilities not only to myself but to my family. I am “80% yes” four hours ago, but after talking to one of my managers, trying to figure out the best for everybody’s interest, I am now “90% yes”. To hear that a consensus can be agreed upon, with me working even in a part-time capacity just to reconcile my conflicting interests, will definitely be the surest way to get that “100%”.

Anyway, this soliloquy has gotten quite long, but I’m comforted by the idea that potentially in two months time, I could be truly doing something that I love, using what I learned from graduate school on something productive and no longer turning a blind eye over the realities of what’s out there. Again, the lines “There’s only so much you can learn in one place / The more that you wait, the more time that you waste”, made more sense to me. If I were to postpone joining an NGO tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, the more the disparity in compensation would be pronounced, unless I try to do something about it as soon as possible It won’t be easy, but I’m indeed ready to jump given a workable opportunity for all parties.

HAPPY 28th BIRTHDAY TO ME!